By Paul M. Banks and Soxman
(PMB) Last weekend included St. Valentine’s Day, a time of year that more women than men look forward to quite frankly. But once it’s over, Major League Baseball pitchers and catchers begin reporting to spring training, which is to most guys what chocolate, jewelry and flowers are to women. Speaking of love, I consulted Soxman, the person who loves the White Sox more than any other individual on this Earth about what occurred in the offices on 35th and Shields this winter. You might recognize Soxman from, well pretty much anywhere local media may roam. We began this exchange by discussing the biggest move of the offseason, the Javier Vazquez trade:
(SM) After his miserable play-off performance, almost every Sox fan would agree that Javy wore out his welcome on the Southside, The trade was crucial in rebuilding our anemic farm system as it yielded two of the top 20 prospects overall in the Braves system.
2B/SS Brent Lillibridge is the player to watch in 2009. He’s expected to battle Chris Getz and Jason Nix for the starting job at second base. Kenny Williams believes he’s capable of stealing 40 bases if he gets 500 Abs.
Tyler Flowers could develop into the Sox next big slugger and 3B prospect Jon Gilmore has drawn comparisons to Scott Rolen.
(PMB) The Southside Dark Knight also opined on the signings of the so-called “Cuban Babe Ruth” Dayan Viciciedo and Bartolo Colon.
(SM) Sox fans should not expect Viciedo to immediately perform like Alexei as he’s only 19. There’s a ton to be excited about however. He slugged over .500 in two of the past three seasons in Cuba and was an All-Star in Cuba’s top league at age 16. Colon is exactly the type of pitcher I expected Williams to sign. The once awesome, now aging pitcher plagued by injuries trying to revive his career…at an ultra cheap price. In limited action with the Red Sox last season, he looked very good.
(PMB) In the case of Bobby Abreu and Jermaine Dye, we spent weeks listening about trade deals and prospective signings only to see no moves made. It kind of felt being stood up on a date. So what does the love interest of female Sox fans everywhere think of the non-deals- the trades that didn’t happen.
(SM) I was surprised the Sox did not go after Orlando Hudson as he still has not signed with a team, Soxman saidI think that the deals Kenny was interested in just didn’t materialize. With the economy it is pretty much a buyers market right now. I think Kenny will see how the 2-3 position battles pan out and if any bargains fall his way, he’ll pounce.
(PMB) Last week Baseball Prospectus predicted the Chicago White Sox to win just 74 games and finish dead last in the AL Central. Although the formulae and prognostications of these sabermetrician geeks sounds bleak, we must remember that almost no one predicted the Sox to win the AL Central last season. In the World Series year of 2005, most people predicted the pale hose to finish third! Also, lots of people forecasted the Sox to win the division in ’06 and ’07, yet they controlled the division for just 36 combined days in those two seasons. In summation, it’s all wide open
One guy with White Sox knowledge second place to no one is Soxman who sprang into action with his take on the Sox spring prospectus.
(SM) There are a ton of question marks going into 2009 that should make for an exciting spring. I can’t remember a time where there were so many position battles.
CF will be fun to watch, where Jerry Owens is expected to battle Brian Anderson. The early favorite to win the job is Owens as we also expect him to assume lead-off duties. However, Getz and Lillibridge could also factor in as Ozzie claims that speed alone does not entitle Owens to bat atop the lineup.
3B is Josh Fields to lose, but if he does, Wilson Betemit could slip right in. The Cuban Babe Ruth, Dayan Viciedo may need some minor league seasoning before being considered a serious threat to assume full-time 3B duties.
There is also a back-up catcher position open and 1-2 spots in the bullpen.
If that’s not enough, it will be interesting to see how Alexei Ramirez handles fulltime SS duties, how healthy Bartolo Colon is, and how well Scott Linebrink’s shoulder has healed.
Soxman sees the White Sox lineup shaking up this way:
The everyday line-up will truly reveal itself during the final days of spring training, I’m really hoping that Ozzie does not decide to hit Thome, Konerko, and AJ back-to-back.”
This is the projected line-up as of today:
(PMB) With the Cuban Missile Alexi Ramirez moving over to shortstop, second base will be see a wide-open and heated competition for playing time.
(SM) It’ll be a wide-open between battle Chris Getz, Jayson Nix, and Brent Lillibridge. All three players combined have 61 games of MLB experience and just 143 Abs. While none of the candidates are proven, this is one of two open positions where the Sox should get a speed boost. While Getz has the early edge, this is truly anyone’s job to win.
(PMB) Another issue on all the minds of Sox Nation is the battle for the fifth starter. Although Jose Contreras is now supposed to be way ahead of schedule, the Sox will still need major innings from one of the prospects such as Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard or the man with the most alternative lifestyle sounding name in White Sox history, Lance Broadway.
(SM) After his heroic performance in September, Clayton Richard is the early favorite to win the 5th spot but will likely be challenged by Aaron Poreda and Jeff Marquez. Broadway will likely battle the losers of the rotation competition for the long relief spot in the bullpen. Poreda likely has the most long-term upside, but is likely to start the season in AAA.
Editor’s note: a version of this story ran on NBC 5’s webpage, that you can read here and here.Follow paulmbanks